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Students put math skills to work by building Christmas trees

It isn't often that art and math are taught in the same class, but Thomson Middle School students got a chance to inject some artistic creativity while working on a sixth grade math project.


Katelyn Clements works on her tree.
Photo by Jerrie Macintire
The students crafted Christmas trees from construction paper using measuring and multiplication skills, then decorated their creations using artistic skills.

Working individually or in groups, the sixth graders created 90 Christmas trees in all.

As part of the math unit, students learned the importance of angles, exact measuring, and calculating the amount of materials needed for the project, said math teacher Felicia Rivers.

"They also learned about three-dimensional figures. We talked about what types of three-D figures you find in the world," she said.

The hands on activity helped the students take an abstract subject like math and make it more concrete by converting the concepts into real life problem solving, said Assistant Principal Pam Rhea.

Student Kim Grisham, who said she loves math, enjoyed the activity and took extra steps to make her group's tree stand out.

"I brought a sewing kit from home for stringing the decorations," she said.

Student Shakara Durham learned the importance of calculating mass when planning such a project. She said it was also important to balance the height of the tree with the width of the base to offer more stability.

"If it's too tall, it might fall over," she said.

Some students employed a paper folding technique to create layers, giving their tree the effect of branches. Others cut silhouettes, and then folded and attached several layers together accordion style to make them stand up.

Glitter, pom-poms, tiny garlands, mini-packages and stars were just some of the ideas students used for decoration. An impartial panel of judges gave awards for best overall tree, best decorations, originality, creativity and best display.

Observing the students use math concepts to create works of art reinforced the lesson and gave both teachers and students a sense of accomplishment.

"Watching them work on the project, we had that fuzzy feeling we like as teachers," Ms. Rivers said.

Students got to personally deliver the trees, along with winter gifts like scarves and gloves to residents at Thomson Manor Nursing Home.

Web posted on Wednesday, December 22, 2004

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